It’s sometimes hard to imagine people in bands – particularly at the harder, darker end of the spectrum, were just junior headbangers like the rest of us as they began the same journey of exploration into the wonderful world of heavy metal as the rest of us in their formative years… Take Katatonia‘s Anders Nyström, for instance…

Hello Anders – it’s a pleasure to chat to you about your Metal Origins! Without further ado, let’s get down to business… What are your earliest memories of heavy metal? What was the first metal album you bought with your own cash? “Mötley Crüe‘s Shout at the Devil back in 1983 when I was eight years old. I remember I rode the bus out to a suburb called Högdalen (High Valley) with my mom one weekend because I was hell-bent I would not come home empty handed that day. Back then, it was mostly the electronic store chains that carried vinyl records and this particular store had its own heavy metal section in the back. I loved to just browse through those covers while fantasising what the music would sound like, based solely on the images. So that afternoon thirty eight years ago, I saw that simplistic album cover with the black-on-black pentagram and it just pulled me in much like comics attract kids. When I opened the gatefold interior featuring four guys (or girls as my dad used to say) in leather, studs, flames and smoke I knew this was what I was supposed to get and leave with! I believe that LP’s price sticker said 79 SEK ($7.00 USD) so there went my whole monthly allowance of pocket money. The only comment my mom made about my purchase on our way home was “now don’t let your friends scratch the record the first thing you do”. Well, in the end I guess I ended up causing those scratches myself playing the album more than a needle could handle”.

Are there any bands you loved as a youngster that cause you to wince now and ask: ‘what was I thinking’? “I don’t think so. Of course, the image some of these bands had at the time can seem hilarious in hindsight, but it was what it was and I was there loving it and it’s so deeply rooted in my nostalgia. Musically, the only thing I reacted to recently that made me laugh out loud was Vince Neil’s vocals on Mötley Crüe’s debut album Too Fast for Love – at certain parts he really stretches it close to baby babble!”

Poor old Vince! Now, who were the first band you saw live – please feel free to include no-name local bands if that was your first interaction with live metal. “First metal band I saw was some unknown act playing at my local youth club in Östberga (East Mountain). This was probably 1984. I can’t remember their name, but what I do remember is that I noticed their singer dropped a small plastic bag on the floor beside the stage before they went on and because I was a curious kid I just couldn’t let it go. So, I picked it up and quickly ran home asking my parents if there were traces of drugs in it while trying to catch my breath, but they laughed it off while inspecting the bag and insisted it contained pure sugar. I ran straight back to the club to tell my friends it was fake and that was that. I guess I’ll never know whether the singer just needed a sugar rush to get up on stage or if he was playing a clichéd act”.

How hard was it growing up to get info on the bands you loved- was there much mainstream media coverage where you lived? “Yeah, here in Sweden, hard rock/heavy metal was really huge in the mid eighties. Actually, it was just as commercial as pop and synth, which resulted in a fierce competition about making it to the top of the major charts. We had several magazines that focused a lot on heavy metal and especially one the biggest called Okej always included a poster with one side devoted to a heavy metal band and the flip side to a synth/pop artist, so you’d just take your pick! We also had some heavy metal radio shows and even some Swedish TV shows that featured and played heavy metal years before MTV came on air. We had special heavy metal stores down town that carried all kinds of imported official and bootlegged metal merch and all kinds of related accessories that made you look cool! I could spend hours in there staring at the TV screens that was playing live shows from Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on repeat. Every time I’d go down town to play the arcade games, I’d buy at least a pin or a patch from one of these places. Everything was very accessible. Surely magic times for a little kid like me to grow up in, realising that there was no turning back!”

As an adjunct to the previous question, do you think the internet has taken away the mystique of being in a big band for young people today? Do we know too much about our heroes in 2021? “Without a doubt. The mystique isn’t there anymore. When I was young and inexperienced, I considered some of these bands my idols and viewed them as untouchable in a lot of ways. They both inspired me and made me chase my own dream. The way things were back then made me romanticise the whole phenomena about being in a band, and fantasising about owning a guitar and an amp, or just pleased being a dedicated fan and part of the scene for that matter. These days it feels like artists are forced to be more of a product that should just please the demographic demands controlled by social media”.

Were you a big festival goer as a junior headbanger? “My problem was that I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts on my own until I became a teenager, so I missed out on all the classic heavy metal arena shows between 1984-88 which I regret greatly. All I could do was take notice of the posters plastered on throughout the city and reading about the live reports. My old folks were not the kind of people that would have taken me there with them and sticking around (which would have been kinda cringe worthy as well). It wasn’t until 1989 when I was fourteen and taking a swan dive into the underground of the thrash and death metal scene that I started attending pretty much every metal show that was happening.

Would you have hitched hundreds of miles to see your favourite bands if necessary? “We did go to some other neighbouring cities on a few occasions the band didn’t come here, but bands rarely skip a capital city like Stockholm, so luckily for us that didn’t happen often. On the contrary, people all over the country always had to travel to Stockholm to see the international packages coming by”.

What five albums have stayed with you since your formative metal years? “Judas Priest – Defenders of the Faith, Balls to the Wall by Accept, Mötley Crüe’s – Shout at the Devil, W.A.S.P.W.A.S.P. and Whitesnake‘s 1987″.

Some total and utter corkers there! Finally – Did you have a metal crush? I had life size posters of Lee Aaron and Doro Pesch on my ceiling in 1986… “(laughing) you know what, I was really into Lita Ford! There was something about the combination of her blonde looks, hazel eyes and BC Rich guitars that made it pretty hard to take my eyes off! Admittedly, I also had some Samantha Fox posters up in her full glory. Oh geez, I wonder if those actually came from those magazines or how the hell a kid like me got them… Actually, it’s strange my mom (or anyone else) never reacted to that or any of the images of Blackie Lawless eating raw meat and Gene Simmons spitting blood that I used as substitutes for wallpaper. Nobody cared! It was the 80s! Everything was so relaxed compared to now, for good or worse!”

Very true! Thanks for taking part! “Cheers!”

Katatonia’s new album, Mnemosynean, is out now.